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Similarity vs. Difference preferences


Explanations > Preferences > Similarity vs. difference preferences

Similarity| Difference | Similarity then Difference | Difference then Similarity | So what?


If you pointed at two cars and asked people what they saw, you would very likely get different answers, depending on whether they looked first for how the cars were similar or different.


Shown two cars, people with a preference for similarity would say that they were--two cars!
These people are not into detail and hence tend to prefer big-picture views. They like simple understanding and will see the world more in black-and-white terms. They like the warmth of familiarity that gives them a comfortable sense of control.
They also will like predictability and stability in their daily lives and will tend towards routine and order.


If shown the same cars, other people will immediately notice how they are different. Even if the cars are apparently identical, they will spot scratches, wheel angle and so on.
Those of us who prefer difference have an eye for detail and as a result are good at improving the world around us. They like the stimulation of novelty and are constantly seeking what is new and different.

Difference people are easily bored when they are faced with routine and structure. They will happily design a detailed process for other people, but will not use it themselves.

Similarity then Difference

Few of us who saw the two cars would see only 'cars' and in fact the majority of the population will say they are 'cars' first and then start to point out the differences.

Similarity-then-difference people tend to see the world top-down, beginning at the outside and then working their way into the detail.

In work, they like a steady job, but with interest and variation in it.

Difference then Similarity

The final viewpoint is to see the differences between the cars and then point out that they are, of course, two cars.

These people will see the world bottom-up, starting with the detail and building up to the big picture.

They primarily seek variation in what they do, but also appreciate a moderate amount of stability. They will follow processes they are given only if these make sense and they can understand how they work.

So what?

Find out what the people need and then play to these.

Give order and repetition to those who prefer similarity.

Never do the same thing twice with those who prefer difference. Be curious and playful with them. Show them new and different things.

For Difference-first people, start with an explanation then ask or tell.

For Similarity-first people, tell first, then explain.

See also



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